Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

April DDA Board meeting tidbits

8. April 2005 • Murph
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Considering the level of interest in the DDA on this site recently, I attended their April Board meeting yesterday (first Wednesdays, noon, Kerrytown Concert House). The following is a smorgasbord of notes that I came out of the meeting with, along with some relevant outside information; no linkage between topics is implied:

> getDowntown is holding Curb Your Car Month again this May, with almost daily events (including a Mother’s Day “Ann Arbor Greenway Trek with ‘Mom’”).

> AATA’s Link will be stopping service in May (conveniently enough), and may restart service in September if funding can be found. The DDA has been asked to contribute something in the range of $150k to the Link and declined(?) pending further evidence of the Link’s value.

> The parking fee system was discussed, with the feeling that it promoted the opposite behavior from what was intended. The cheapest parking option for a downtown employee is to park at a meter all day and pay a “Within 24 hours” $5 ticket, and the second cheapest option is to feed a meter all day. Evening restaurant employees often park at meters at 4pm and pay until 6pm, rather than using structures. These behaviors are counter to the intent of metered parking – to provide short-term parking close to businesses for patrons. The City is considering raising the expired meter ticket to $10, but some downtown businesses are worried. The DDA plans to discuss changing enforcement hours on meters or adjusting relative rates.

> On Monday, 11 April, Rene Greff and Leah Gunn will be talking to the Women Progressive Activists along with Doug Cowherd and Alice Ralph about various ideas of the greenway.

> Fred Beal and Leah Gunn are on the selection committee for the old Y site redevelopment plans, which first met this week. I’ve found that you can view photocopies of the proposals if you visit the County Annex on Fourth, but it takes a FOIA to get copies to take with you.

> Mayor Hieftje noted that Governor Granholm will be creating (has created?) a Local Government Financing Task Force this year to address the fact that the state’s Cities are on the edge of fiscal collapse. As previously discussed on this site, the Michigan property tax system is broken, from the cities’ point of view, and favors growth of greenfield Townships.

> A Whitmore Lake company called Interstate Traveler wants to build an elevated maglev transit system down Woodward, using private funding from undisclosed sources, and Ferndale has thrown its support (political, not fiscal) behind the project. According to ITC’s website, the system will be financially self-supporting, will run on solar energy from panels lining the track, will capture stormwater in underground tanks below the track and use excess solar power to convert it to hydrogen, and will save the US steel industry, and all they want is a right-of-way down the middle of Woodward to plant their support pylons in. Mayor Hieftje mentioned that ITC is also interested in the Ann Arbor/Ypsi/DTW/Detroit corridor.

These are my hurried notes from the audience; I’m counting on Bob Dascola or Leah to note any corrections or clarifications.



  1. Murph – You should have introduced yourself – I only know you from this blog! You are indeed accurate. For those of you who wish to attend, the WPA event will be at 7 PM Monday April 11 at the Church of the Good Shepherd on Independence (which is off Packard just after Jewett if you are going South). Leah.
       —Leah    Apr. 8 '05 - 08:43AM    #
  2. Murph, I talked with Chris White of AATA at Cafe Verde before the meeting and mentioned the potential consolidation of the Greyhound station when the Y site is redone. He said they’d approached them when the DTC was originally built and would give it another shot.

    I also commented how it was too bad the federal building wasn’t likely to give up their parking lot. He said that they’d worked at that as well, but that some federal regulation had been hauled out as an excuse not to give up part of it. I suggested that Rep. Dingell seems to be working hard to represent Ann Arbor’s interests and might be worth asking to step in this time. Chris thought it might be worth another try.

    I also ran into John Hieftje and Csaba Csere (of Car and Driver) there yesterday. (What a great place to run into people. I met Paul Tinkerhess of 4th Ave. Birkenstock there on Tuesday. He’s interested in the potential of the Fourth Ave. corridor, too, naturally.) But Hieftje was talking about a hydrogen-powered, fuel cell vehicle that the city might have temporary use of. I emailed him later about my concern that the federal focus has been on hydrogen, an energy carrier, rather than energy sources, like wind and solar. We can’t afford to put that cart before the horse. Anyway, it’s great that that subject was discussed at a DDA meeting.
       —Steve Bean    Apr. 8 '05 - 09:10AM    #
  3. Leah, I wanted to introduce myself, but I got tied up talking to Bob and then to the getDowntown crew after the meeting, and by that time you had left. See you on Monday, I suppose.

    Steve, I stopped in Cafe Verde for an iced tea before the DDA meeting also (around 11:20) and then sat outside in the Sculpture Plaza reading for half an hour. Too bad we don’t know what each other look like.
       —Murph    Apr. 8 '05 - 10:46AM    #
  4. Murph, picture a taller (6’ 3”), underdressed John Hieftje with graying black hair (what’s left of it) rather than graying blonde hair. If you go there often around noon, you’ve seen me.
       —Steve Bean    Apr. 8 '05 - 10:53AM    #
  5. Steve,

    If you, Murph and I are ever in the same room, I’ll introduce y’all.

    We should get some AU-contributor headshots on the contact page…
       —Scott    Apr. 8 '05 - 12:15PM    #
  6. It’s interesting to note that ridership finally seems to be increasing on the Link now that it’s about to go under. Probably still not nearly enough to justify it, but as people know about the service it’s starting to be used. I think the route is an excellent one, and the idea of the Link good; the only problem, I think, has been making enough people aware of it.
    I’d sure like to see someone come up with funding to try it another year. And this is from someone who made fun of it at first. (Lots of empty buses going by didn’t seem like an alternative kind of transportation.)
       —Michael Betzold    Apr. 8 '05 - 02:42PM    #
  7. It would be good to have survey data on The Link ridership to find out if passengers would otherwise be walking, biking, driving or not traveling.

    If the vast majority would be using other means of travel than driving, maybe it should die a quiet death. (Health benefits of walking, less fuel consumption, lower expenses for AATA, etc.) Just because people ride it doesn’t mean it’s needed.

    On the other hand, if its absence would result in fewer productive trips (however you choose to define that term), it might be worth it. There are other factors to look at, of course, but this would be a start.

    Seems like there would be sufficient experience with it by now that such data could be collected. When it first started, predicting its future value was all a guessing game.
       —Steve Bean    Apr. 8 '05 - 03:04PM    #
  8. I never use the Link because I walk everywhere it goes.
       —tom    Apr. 8 '05 - 03:09PM    #
  9. Same here. I can usually get there faster that way, too.

    But say you’re coming from outside the downtown, looking to go on a shopping trip, and your options are to go to Briarwood (or Twelve Oaks, for that matter) or else to lug your packages with you out in the Michigan weather. Do you pass on the downtown shopping trip because it might rain? That’s what would be useful to know from people who’ve used The Link in order to make a projection of how many more people might be making the same choices in the future (again, other factors considered.)
       —Steve Bean    Apr. 8 '05 - 03:21PM    #
  10. Sad to hear about the Link, especially after they got funding extentions before. I use it much more often in winter when bad weather makes what would be an easy summer walk almost unbearable. It’s a great idea. I also wish it ran later (much like AATA—I often bus-in cab-out).

    I’ve often wondered if perhaps the route is too close to itself, and a just slightly wider loop might make it more attractive. (William or Washington?)
       —Chris F    Apr. 8 '05 - 04:17PM    #
  11. also:

    MDOT 5-year plan public comment

    Joint Committee Meeting with Senate
    Transportation, Rep. Philip LaJoy, Chair and Transportation, Sen. Judson Gilbert, Chair

    Date: 04/11/2005
    Time: 6:00 PM

    Place: SEMCOG Office
    Buhl Building
    535 Griswold Suite 300
    Detroit MI 48226
       —Chris F    Apr. 8 '05 - 04:57PM    #
  12. Murph, You got everything right with your note taking as Leah said.

    Leah, this is the first time that I met Murph. When the DDA meetings end people seem to disappear fast cause I had to run accross the street to Bob Gillett’s office to give him something that I brought. On my way back I stopped on the street to talk to a woman who was at the meeting. I’ve never seen her before, so she told me her name was Jennifer Roth from Farmington Hills, and vice Pres of Development from the Village Green Company. She told me she was interested in working with the city to help develop the sites that would be sold off if that happens. I have her card and if you want her e-mail address let me know, I’ll send it to you in e-mail off this list. I thought the meeting went very well with good input from the committee’s. I’m sorry that I won’t be able to attend the Monday night affair, so I hope it goes very well.

    I talked to Janis Bobrin about getting a group of people together to work on a project in West Park. It would involve figuring out where to put some rain meadows to stop the run off to the lower part of the park. Janis told me she runs through there all the time and the lower end is alway soggy/wet. This doesn’t surprise me one bit concidering all the water the runs down both side and from up on 7th street. Murph, this would be a good project for your group to help with in planning. I tell you more later . Have a good evening to all.
    Bob Dascola
    PS. Murph, I think the Mayor said that the Governors group was already there, but haven’t done any thing in a long time, so it’s like a restartup??
       —Bob Dascola    Apr. 8 '05 - 11:07PM    #
  13. The AATA has statistics about the Link. About 50% of the ridership is students, and others are people who work downtown. The DDA is still looking at it, but we were told by Chris White that the AATA Board does not see the Link as central to their mission. They were offering only “in kind” rather than cash to support it. Whatever happens, it is my understanding that the U-M will pay for it to go to Oxford Housing, begining in the fall. They need it there because they will be renovating many dorms and intend to continue using Oxford Housing for undergrads. So contact the AATA for further data.
       —Leah    Apr. 9 '05 - 10:53AM    #
  14. That maglev thing looks almost like a hoax.
       —Brandon    Apr. 9 '05 - 05:27PM    #
  15. The maglev thing sounds like the brainchild of one of those Lyndon LaRouche cult members who occasionally stand out on the Diag with their odd propaganda. One day, about 15 minutes after I’d learned a good friend of mine had died, on my way to be with friends, I passed a LaRouche table. When I declined an invitation to chat, a LaRouche-ite shouted “Oh! So you’re a yuppy already, huh?” Not really sure where he was going with that, but he’s lucky I have very good control of my base impulses, even under emotional stress, or he’d’ve been pulling himself off the sidewalk … not that this has anything to do with anything … I’m in a bad mood .
       —Scott    Apr. 9 '05 - 06:36PM    #
  16. Scott, you’re right—I think someone ought to look into the LaRouche connection. Look at this
    “The jobs and industries LaRouche creates,
    under his New American Railroad maglev program, will be
    here to stay.”

    This also reminds me of:
    “I’ve sold monrails to Brockway, Audbinville, and North Haverbrooke, and by gum, it put them on the map!
    Well, sir, there’s nothing on earth
    Like a genuine,
    Bona fide,
    Electrified,
    Six-car
    Monorail!”

    Why don’t we just start with electric or even diesel commuter rail first? I’m skeptical of the feasibility of this hydrogen-based system.
       —Brandon    Apr. 10 '05 - 04:02PM    #
  17. If the architecture of the system is that it encourages downtown employees to pay the ticket rather than parking in the parking structures, then the answer might not simply be raising the cost of parking tickets.
    Things that local businesses can do that will help make sure that parking is availible for customers, in my opinion, come down to two main strategies: working to decrease the number of employees that drive, and making it easier for those who do drive to find off-street parking.
    To the first, things like supporting the go!pass (which is great) and the AATA are a start, but many employees live in places where the AATA just isn’t feasible as transport. An increase in affordable service worker housing in the downtown area, which means lobbying for things like the DDA plan and against the current conception of the greenway, would help greatly. So would paying workers a living wage, so that they could afford downtown housing, and paying a premium for workers who don’t drive (call it a bike/bus subsidy or whatever).
    On the second, lobbying for things like decreasing the rate charged by parking structures would help, or even having the city/DDA sell cheaper blocks of spaces to local businesses. Put ‘em up on the top levels, and maybe just have a card that would decrease the rate for downtown workers (especially service workers, as they’re less likely to be able to afford to park elsewhere and are more likely to have to drive in from elsewhere). If these things are done, increasing the rates for parking tickets wouldn’t be a hardship on the people who are the unacknowledged backbone of any urban environment.
       —js    Apr. 10 '05 - 05:00PM    #
  18. js – the DDA already does this, by selling permit parking at $105 per month to businesses. (This is much cheaper than the hourly rate and they cannot park on the lower floors until 10 AM – so they do indeed have to park on the upper levels.) Also, any downtown employee can drive to a Park and Ride lot (e.g. at Pioneer High) and take the bus in from there, using the GoPass. So even if your area is not served by the AATA, you can still ride the bus. Service workers, who work late, can park in the Liberty Square and Ann/Ashley parking structures for $2.00 after 3 PM (as can anyone who is downtown for the evening – much cheaper than 4th/Washington or Maynard).

    The DDA is looking at revising the parking rates, to make the structures cheaper than the meters. However, if it costs $8.27 for the city to write a ticket, and we want the meters for customers, with turnover, then how about a larger fine? The $5.00 fine just doesn’t make sense if the city is actually losing money writing tickers, which it is.

    It’s a combination of sanctions and rewards, with an effort to put longer term parkers into the structures, while allowing the customers to use the meters.

    What do you think?
       —Leah    Apr. 10 '05 - 05:53PM    #
  19. I imagine there’s an informational barrier – I didn’t know until just the last several months that Liberty Square was $2 after 3pm; I hope that’s somewhat newish and not something that’s been in effect since 10 years ago when I was in high school and paying for evening parking in Maynard that i just didn’t know about, but, otherwise, that’s a good data point on information right there.

    What about maintaining a $5 fine, but only if paid within 2 hours of being issued, raising to $15 after that? That’ll allow people who get held up running errands and miss their meter by 20 or 30 minutes to still pay a cheap ticket on their way home, but also disincentivize parking there in the morning and paying the ticket at the end of the work day. Still allow some lenience, but make the window for abuse much shorter.

    Does AATA run express routes from the park and rides during peak hours? For example, I get on the #2 at Plymouth and Murfin to ride downtown, and that takes long enough that I wouldn’t want to park at the Green Rd. park and ride and drive enough. If I’m going to commute into Ann Arbor, I’d rather pass Green Rd. and just drive all the way into downtown in ten minutes than spend 30 or 40 minutes minutes waiting for a bus and then stopping frequently and winding in through the hospital and campus.
       —Murph    Apr. 10 '05 - 08:49PM    #
  20. Hey, Murph – that is an absolutely brilliant idea! It makes great sense – people can go to the Customer Service Center at the corner of Fifth & Huron and pay their ticket and go home, but the “all day” people would have to pay a higher fine. That will encourage them to either use the bus or the parking structures. Please suggest that to the Mayor and Council, as they are in charge of fines and enforcement.

    As to the schedules, I believe it’s 15 minutes during the morning and afternoon rush hours, but you would have to check the AATA schedules (go to their web site) to make sure. How much of that 10 minutes is taken up finding a parking space and then also having to pay for it, when the bus is free?

    As to the $2.00 entry, it’s been there for a long time, but I don’t know when you were in high school…and I’m not asking! It’s also available at First and Washington, but I would not park there as you will get lime on your car.
       —Leah    Apr. 10 '05 - 09:05PM    #
  21. Is it really true that once you get your first ticket at an expired meter, you can park there all day? I tried that experiment once, due to an unfortunate series of events, and at the end of the day ended up with three tickets, two for an expired meter and one that was like $20 (don’t remember what it was for, specifically, but it was related to my being parked at the meter and nothing external to that situation). So, it seems like they can write you more than one ticket if you’re at the meter for twice as long as the meter’s time allows for, at least. E.g., if you park at a two hour meter for five hours, you could get at least two tickets…
       —Scott    Apr. 11 '05 - 09:33AM    #
  22. I know a lot of grad students who have done this experiment. ON occasion they get two tickets. Usually not. They pay the $5 and it’s cheaper than parking in a lot.
       —JennyD    Apr. 11 '05 - 09:43AM    #
  23. I thought that when the parking ticket grace period was first initiated years ago, it was only for an hour. Zingermans also used to gave you a deal on your sandwich if you brought it a parking ticket from that day—do they still do that?
       —Julie    Apr. 11 '05 - 10:23AM    #
  24. I think that there’s a separate ticket for parking at a meter past the maximum time allowed, but the News(?) quoted somebody in the police office as saying that it just wasn’t worth their officers’ time to chalk tires and check back. I suppose they could pull the first ticket off your windshield and see what time it was written for . . .
       —Murph    Apr. 11 '05 - 11:51AM    #
  25. I think I’m going to invent a leg or boot mountable chalk stamping system, so the cop just needs to tap the tire with her boot to leave a chalked time-stamp. I’m gonna be rich…

    (patent pending) =)
       —Scott    Apr. 11 '05 - 01:26PM    #
  26. Yes, Scott – you can get two or more tickets. The larger one is for parking way beyond the expiration of the meter, but I am not sure what it’s called in the “penalty box”

    JennyD – this is the problem – everyone pays the $5.00 ticket, and it costs more that that just to write the ticket. And you are correct, it’s cheaper than parking in an attended structure or lot all day.

    We tried the “boot” (it’s called the “Denver boot”) a few years ago – but that was for scofflaws who don’t pay their tickets. I think it was found not worth it. But I am not sure – check with City Hall.

    So, what do you out there think about making the meters more expensive and the structures cheaper? And raising the fine?
       —Leah    Apr. 11 '05 - 04:24PM    #
  27. “So, what do you out there think about making the meters more expensive and the structures cheaper? And raising the fine?”

    Seems reasonable, given the factors we have control over.

    Another of those factors is the parking voucher system that merchants can buy into to cover the cost of their customers parking in the structures. Maybe that needs better promotion. (That puts them on a more level footing with malls like Briarwood that have “free” parking, which is really just rolled into the cost of merchandise by way of rent, I assume. In fact, it’s a more fair system in that they only pay if they make a sale and, therefore, don’t subsidize other businesses and their customers.)

    There will still likely be people who think parking downtown isn’t worth the hassle. I suspect they just don’t like what downtown has to offer, namely, exposure to the great outdoors. I think downtown will survive without them as long as we treat fairly those who do want to visit. Businesses might post signs showing the distance to the nearest structures relative to the average distance from a Briarwood lot to a centrally located business there, if they wanted to get serious about it.

    Here’s another question to consider: why isn’t paying at meters required in the evening (after 6pm) when the demand is the highest?
       —Steve Bean    Apr. 11 '05 - 05:36PM    #
  28. I’m with Steve on most of his points. Especially the after-6pm meter deal. Makes sense to do it in the places where evening demand is low (say, Kerrytown area), but Main St. reasonably ought to be metered until 8 or 10pm.

    At the DDA meeting, somebody (the Mayor?) suggested moving the meter enforcement hours back by a few hours, keeping them turning over in the evening and providing a bonus for folks who come downtown early in the morning, when demand is normally low.
       —Murph    Apr. 11 '05 - 05:49PM    #
  29. I would double the $5 pay-it-within-24-hours fine to $10. The lots would fill quickly. The meters would empty more quickly.

    Then make sure there’s enough parking downtown for everyone.

    On another note, I think the fees for using the city golf courses are ridiculously low. Even my senior citizen mother thinks the city should stop being so hesitant to increase fees.
       —JennyD    Apr. 11 '05 - 08:28PM    #
  30. Fewer golf courses, more hydrogen-producing bullet trains! The Allen Creek Tramway, perhaps?

    Or maybe some affordable housing, if we’re feeling ambitious.
       —Brandon    Apr. 11 '05 - 10:34PM    #